Study as Commoning: No Beginnings

Notes from collective writings, e-mail exchanges, internal and public discussions.

(This section has been previously published in Spaces of Commoning: Artistic Research and the Utopia of the Everyday on pp.32-33)




X:  Calling a point in time a beginning is always in danger of becoming a gesture of erasure, a gesture with an inherent colonial stance. It proposes we could move out and go to a place to establish there something from scratch. But wherever we are moving to, be it physically or metaphorically, this beginning remains a construct agreed upon by the ones who are on the move.


CV: From a soldier’s perspective, the occupation takes place in no man’s land, ready to be colonized anew. In wartime, territory is treated like an unmarked piece of land, a terra nullius that has not yet been occupied.


Y: It is seemingly necessary that commoning ‘begins’ somewhere, because we seldom find ourselves stepping in an already ongoing process of commoning or continuing an established commoning practice.


Z: Where to draw the line that would mark a beginning? For much of our projects running time we found ourselves looking back across that line and pushing the border of what our condition was incrementally backward.


A: Our collaboration departed from two points: a work contract and a project proposal. The first one was readily accepted; the signing of contracts occurred without negotiations, as if it was a mere formality. The proposal, however, has been continuously challenged, debated, rewritten.


B: There was no beginning anymore, and no part of our subjectivity was exempt from being a condition for our process of commoning.


SH: The only way to deal with this is to make the conditions that you came with the object of study, and by that I mean the object of the transformation of being together. They are not just a thing that you are trying to understand before you do something else, they are the only way you are ever getting to the time and the space that you need. They are the very thing that you work on—they are the very topic of study.


A: Since the beginning of our work one question has consistently reemerged: is commoning simply the subject of our research or is our collaborative research also a form of commoning?


C: We have left the end but are not yet at the beginning.



X, Y, Z, A, B, C are members of the Spaces of Commoning research group.
CV is Cornelia Vismann. (‘Starting from Scratch: Concepts of Order in No-Man’s-Land,’ in War, Violence and the Modern Condition, ed. Bernd Hüppauf [Berlin: Walter de Ruyter, 1997])
SH is Stefano Harney in a public conversation with the Spaces of Commoning research group on the occasion of the Vienna Art Week, 2015.